Going Meta: Reviewing Sermon Reviews, part 1

Part 1: The what and the way

At the end of July I set out to not only preach nearly every week, but to take time to review my own sermon. Inspired by something a friend said (and knowing that it isn’t reasonable to attend a preaching conference every year), I decided that this was a way to help me reflect critically on my own preaching.

Every now and then I have a brilliant sermon; I aim for good; I know that not every sermon is good. On any given Sunday, I know that there are things I could have done better. It may be a good sermon; I may have preached the Good News; I may be able to have done a better job. I wanted build some time on that question into my week. And I wanted to do it publicly. Because I of the accountability and because preaching isn’t an arcane art that mysteriously produces sermons.

There are nine things I include each week in my sermon review.

  • A link to the audio of my sermon. Because if you are willing to read through the rest of this, you might want to hear what I preached.
  • Summary of what I was saying and why. I keep this in case you haven’t listened to my sermon or have already forgotten what I said. It also gives me a chance to talk about why I used a particular text or focused on something. I’m not entirely sure that I’ve been making the best use of this so far.
  • Theology: One of my internal checks against preaching ruts and/or getting stuck in a sermon is to ask what the theology of the sermon is. (It has helped me write the conclusion of more sermons than I can count.) So I have this one here for me more than anyone else.
  • Jesus Count: I adopted this from my preaching professor. It’s about how often the preacher mentions Jesus. I tend to measure with a low, moderate, or high count.
  • Good News: The (hopefully) one sentence summary of what I thought people might hear in the sermon.
  • What did I change on my feet? I preach without notes. A manuscript gets in my way and my memory lets me do it. Which means that sometimes things get better or left out on Sunday morning.
  • Every week I’ve asked myself what did and didn’t work. No giant revelation has come out of this. That doesn’t surprise me. I often know fairly quickly what I wish I would have said or a phrasing I fumbled. This is also about being transparent.

The great surprise in all of this was my last minute addition. As I was considering what to questions should be asked every week, what would be helpful, how to frame this thing so I wouldn’t tire of it after a month, I remembered something. One of my favorite parts of preaching conferences is hearing other people’s sermons. So I added a section for sermons other people preached and I liked. Every week I read or listen to 4-10 other sermons (it depends on my time and how many other sermons have been posted) and select 2-4. I look for sermons with a style I enjoyed, a different theology than I preached, or which simply delighted me.

Coming: Part 2: Did it work and What I’ve learned and Part 3: The Other Preachers

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An Anglican/Episcopal priest, bibliophile, dog owner, and Montanan

6 thoughts on “Going Meta: Reviewing Sermon Reviews, part 1

  1. Well, your plate is probably full now listening/selecting from all the online sermons, but we’ve been posting audio and text for a while, and, for about the last year, youtube videos… and I know our priest uses it (no matter how painful!) to review the sermon… plus it allows people home sick or away at college or perhaps keeping warm in Florida for the winter to keep up with the sermons. I applaud your willingness to allow us to watch your self-reflection and sermon grading, and to listen in as you preach!

  2. Andy,
    I’ll have to add you guys to my list (most of which will go up on Friday). One of the things I learned in doing this is that we make it very hard for people to find our online sermons.
    I’m always happy to find another sermon to enjoy, because I really do.

  3. Well, our philosophy is that it’s the one thing that changes every single week in our church. It allows folks cruising around to get a feel for our church through Kids Stuff moments and sermons (and allows families to see that we have kids!)… “Curious” people don’t care about church talk or when the next pot luck supper is or how old your church building is or whether there are 6 people on the “vestry” (whatever *that* is!) or 9. And we’re lucky enough that most news gets to the congregation on Sundays when they come for worship!

  4. I’m already entranced by the puppets I think I saw in some of the video captures. Next week is going to be much more exciting for me.
    How do I find the most recent sermon posted?

  5. It is always the home page in the area surrounded by gray… the created date reflects the date that it was preached. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the youtube feed for the church, or become a friend of the church on facebook and I always post when new videos are available. Yes, the puppets… Father Louxn and Percival and Dottie the Deacon and the St. Mark’s Lion are all regular visitors to talk to the kids (along with the older kids like me!)…

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